D.C. United is likely to open the season in two weeks with only 24 players, leaving several slots available for possible moves during the current transfer window and summer signing period.
Ahead of the March 3 opener at Orlando, United has filled 17 of a maximum 20 senior positions, plus six supplemental and reserve slots. A seventh will be occupied by Chris Odoi-Atsem, a second-year defender from Mitchellville, Md., who has finalized a new contract after performing well at training camp in Clearwater, Fla. Teams are allowed to have up to 30 players under contract.
“It’s a good number to go into the season,” General Manager Dave Kasper said Friday. “It’s possible we will add one or two more players [before the first game], but as of today, this is our roster. We’re still pursuing other player opportunities” for possible acquisition down the road, as well.
Any signings before MLS’s primary transfer window closes May 1 would likely fall into the low-budget, supplemental and reserve categories, Kasper said. United is involved in “minimal” trade talks and, after testing several trialists in the first portion of training camp, none are in camp now, he added.
United owns enough salary cap space and allocation money, Kasper said, to add players early in the season and one or two in the summer window, which runs July 10 to Aug. 8.
Last year, United began the campaign with 28 players, but Chris Durkin was largely committed to the U.S. under-17 national team and Chris Rolfe (concussion) was on the official list with a guaranteed contract, though he was effectively retired. That roster also had three rookies; this year, there are none.
Asked if there was a particular position that is a priority, Kasper said, “We’re fairly well-balanced at this point.”
United is set at goalkeeper (David Ousted, Steve Clark and Travis Worra) and central defense (Steve Birnbaum, Frederic Brillant, Kofi Opare and Jalen Robinson). It’s also loaded in central midfield (Luciano Acosta, Ian Harkes, Russell Canouse, Ulises Segura, Junior Moreno and Jared Jeffrey). Segura is likely to see time on the right wing, as well.
Taylor Kemp and Nick DeLeon entered camp as the only wide defenders, but United traded with Seattle for Oniel Fisher and will formally add Odoi-Atsem soon. He beat out trialists Sheanon Williams and John Requejo for a roster spot.
Durkin is a highly regarded prospect in defensive midfield and central defense.
United seems comfortable with the two strikers in camp, Darren Mattocks and Patrick Mullins. Bruno Miranda could also play up top but is more comfortable attacking from the wing. None has ever scored more than eight goals in a season.
The primary options on the flanks are Paul Arriola, Yamil Asad and Zoltan Stieber. Asad and Stieber are capable of moving inside, which is going to be necessary in the opener because Acosta’s red card in the 2017 finale carried over.
D.C. went scoreless in 17 of 34 matches last year, but with an upgraded midfield and the addition of Mattocks, Coach Ben Olsen said he is optimistic about increasing production.
Despite carrying fewer players, United still plans to loan players to the second-division Richmond Kickers but with the flexibility to recall them at any time. Kickers Coach Leigh Cowlishaw visited D.C. camp in Clearwater and will work with Kasper and Olsen over the next few weeks in determining which individuals will join his squad ahead of the USL season opener March 18.
United notes: D.C. will play the Philadelphia Union on Saturday in St. Petersburg, Fla., the second-tier Jacksonville Armada on Wednesday in Clearwater and the second-division Las Vegas Lights on Feb. 24 in Nevada. All are available for viewing on United’s website, with the first two starting at 5 p.m., and the last at 11 p.m. … Acosta cleared concussion protocol and is likely to play Saturday. … Asad is scheduled to make his debut. … Birnbaum has recovered from a minor ailment. … Canouse (knee) and Kemp (hernia) are out until next week.
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